A Financial Education Event
 

Junk Mail Junkies

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, and I LOVE getting mail from my kids around this time. Even when there isn’t a gift in the mailbox, I just love hearing from my kids! Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love to get mail? When Joshua was seven years old, he loved to check the mail for me, it was his “job.” He would scour the letters, as most kids do, looking for mail for himself. I would ask my girlfriends to send him a letter, just so he could receive mail! One day, he was bringing in an arm full of junk mail and paused to sort through it, looking for that golden letter. All of the sudden, I heard a huge shout as he ran into the kitchen where I was working.
“Mama!” he was more excited than just getting a letter in his name, “Mama! We won! We won the publisher’s clearinghouse! We won ten MILLION dollars!”

I looked at the junk mail in his hand, saw that it was the usual clever packaging, designed to fool adults with the IQ of a seven-year-old. It was just a chance to be entered into the contest if we bought magazines.

How many of us waste valuable time, energy, and effort going through all the junk in our e-boxes and mailboxes? Not to mention the phone calls that come in the middle of watching the fabulous HBO series on John Adams! If you’re wasting effort in this area, it’s time to stop the madness. Here are a few tips on how to keep the junk mail junkies from poisoning your life:

  • Listless – Get off mailing list by going to the Mail Preference Service registry of the Direct Marketing Association at http://www.dmachoice.org/ and select “Remove my name.” This service is free and takes care of 80% of your problem with junk that arrives in the mail. It’s good for three years at your current address, when you move, change it again.
  • Numberless– To stop telemarketing solicitors, go to the National Do Not Call registry at 1-888-382-1222 or go to http://www.donotcall.gov/ and register all your phone numbers. Don’t forget to register cel phone numbers as well because these numbers are now released to telemarketers and the consumer pays for the call. Telemarketers should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 30 days. If they do, you can file a complaint at this Website.
  • Formless – When you register a product, you are opening yourself up to a whole new realm of junk. Most of these forms are for recalls, so just don’t fill them out, the same goes for contests and sweepstakes–those are like standing on the middle of a wildlife reserve with a piece of meat in your hand and a bunch of hungry lions under the nearby trees–you’re just saying “come and get me!”
  • Creditless – Some of the most dangerous email are the preapproved credit forms you receive–these should be SHREDDED to avoid Identity Theft. If you call 888-567-8688 and give your social security number, you’ll stop the mail and reduce your chance if ID theft.
  • Anonymous-When you sign up for your grocery store card or other frequent buyer programs, you can do so anonymously, without giving vital information. Use a different name, with no address, to protect your privacy.
  • Catalog-less-To opt out of catalogs (a frequent occurrance if you shop online), go to http://www.catalogchoice.org/ and stop the temptation from arriving in your mail.

A word of caution: the only instance in which you will give your social security info in order to opt out of junk is the credit card form. Do not ever release your SS # for any kind of other opt out.

Now, with all that extra time you have, go out and have a cup of coffee with a friend, take the time to enjoy those who enjoy your company because life is too short for high maintenance relationships or junk mail junkies!

Ellie Kay

http://www.elliekay.com/

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Sharing and Saving on Hotels

Spring break is here, and summer will be upon us before we know it. If you want to get away from the day-to-day, it can be difficult to work it into your budget. Since the recession, the idea of a “Staycation” has become popular, where a family camps out in the backyard, or does something special to make their time at home feel more like time away. While these are great ideas to save money for people on a budget, I believe there are other ways to get away from home and have an affordable vacation away. Here are some ways to get away for less:

Volunteer Your Way to a Cheaper Vacation: Steve and Debby Trigg first discovered their favorite family vacation spot when they had an ample budget for family fun. They went to a Christian campground in Colorado and fell in love with the staff, landscape, and activities. They also caught the vision of how combining ministry with vacation can help teach their kids the concept of servant missions.

When Steve had his hours cut back at work, they found their vacation budget reduced during those belt-tightening years. They opted to go back to the campground as staff for a week. While their workload was increased, they still had plenty of family time with a ministry emphasis. Steve said, “We decided to volunteer to teach our children the benefits of servant missions and NOT for the benefit of a low-cost vacation—that is a serendipitous blessing.”

Instead of paying $1000 for the week (which is still a bargain for those who are paid guests) they had a working vacation for free. Not all campgrounds offer this kind of a trade-off, but if your family enjoys this kind of environment, it would be worth your time to contact a local retreat center or campground. Go to Acacamps.org for the American Camping Association or try www.google.com and enter your state and “Christian Campground” to find a location near you.

Not all vacation packages are faith-based; some are education-based as well. At Family Hostel, HostelWorld.com, there are trips offered that match families with learning vacations around the world. There are even Elder Hostels, which offer those 55 and older up to 10,000 options starting at as little as $556 for a six day photography workshop in Massachusetts.

WildernessVolunteers.org is a nonprofit organization created in 1997, which offers people of any age a chance to help and maintain national parks, forests, and wilderness areas across the United States. Everything from trail maintenance to vegetation projects may be on the agenda. Participants provide their own camping gear and share campsite chores. Most Wilderness Volunteer trips last about a week and cost around $219.

Great Deals on Hotels: If you have a certain destination in mind, sometimes all you need is a hotel. Check out these sites that can help your vacation be just that much sweeter:

TravelZoo: If you are thinking of visiting a certain place, look under the Hotels tab on TravelZoo.com and pick your destination. It will show you the current deals. It will also give you the option to search prices on several sites. Just make sure you have your check in and out dates.

priceline.com: I love this site. I have used it to get amazing deals at unimaginable prices. The “Name Your Price” tool is a wonder. Start off low and work your way up! This also has International options.

hotels.com: Another great site for finding hotel deals and steals. A unique feature for hotels.com is their rewards program that can help you build up stays and earn a free night. It is never too late to save big with their “Last Minute Deals” tab for all the quick getaway trips.

kayak.com: This is another great site for hotels, as well as flights. It will search hundreds of travel sites to find you the best deals on the web. Through Kayak, you are able to save at least 25%, sometimes even more. You can even scan the popular cities on the home page in order to see what hotels are going for in the area.

No matter what your vacation budget is, it’s important to take time off from the real world to create and develop a meaningful time to foster friendship, marriage and family. In years to come, you may not recall the price of the condominium or quality of the room service, but you will remember those forever memories with the people you love—because they are priceless.

De-Stress for Less (part 2)

In order to fully embrace the value of free time, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of recreation and relaxation in our overall quality of life and productivity. Our families, marriages, and friendships all need time to regenerate and celebrate so we can be refreshed and ready to face the next round of daily demands of modern living. Unfortunately, if we are not mindful, those rewarding activities can become costly and negatively impact our budgets—which puts us right back into stress mode!

If entertainment and eating out is scheduled into your spending plan, then there’s no stress of going off budget. But what if you could go out twice as often and still stay on budget? Here are some ways to have twice the fun at the same price:

Find the Health and Wealth Connection

We are so excited to announce that my latest book co-authored with Danna Demetre, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, releases today!

What would you do if you finally lost all that excess weight and had energy to burn?  How different would your life be if you were completely out of debt and in control of your finances? And what if you could do both at the same time with just few simple lifestyle changes? Discover the powerful connection to help you lose weight, dump debt, and save money.

What’s good for the wallet is good for the body—an innovative approach to improving both your wealth and your health.
Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in Lean Body, Fat Wallet:What would you do if you finally lost all your excess weight or had energy to burn? Howdifferent would your life be if you were completely out of debt and in control of your finances? And what if you could do both at the same time with just a few simple and sustainable lifestyle changes? Danna Demetre  and I are life experts in two seemingly different fields—finance and fitness. Working together, we have made a remarkable discovery—the principles and habits that are good for your wallet are equally good for your body. The simple and practical teaching in this “two for one” bargain of a book will help you put those principles and habits to work in your life and create a sustainable and satisfying lifestyle.

  • Four essential habits for satisfying, sustainable change and how to make them part of your life
  • Ten “failure factors” that trip us up and how to steer clear of them
  • Proven strategies to overcome emotional eating and spending
  • A wealth of stress busters that don’t rely on food or money
  • A game plan for raising fit and frugal kids

The book also offers a tool kit of charts to track your accomplishments and a recap menu that allows readers to easily navigate each chapter and pick out specific sections relevant to current needs.

Through this book you, too, can discover a new way to approach your financial and physical challenges. Join us on this amazing journey and at the end of the road, you’ll develop your very own lean body and fat wallet! We are looking forward to the discoveries you will find!

Saving in the Store with Links to Super Savings

By learning how to save money in stores for groceries, toiletries, and cleaners, you can also begin your journey to million-dollar life. The only true failure would be never to start. Here are some tips to save money in the store, whether you’re destined to be a Savings Queen or not. If you apply a few of these tips, you could save up to 50 percent and if you apply most of them, you could cut your food bill by as much as 80 percent. Here are some of the best tips to transform you from a coupon commoner to a Coupon Queen.

  1. The List: Research indicates if you shop with a list and stick to it you are likely to spend as much as 30 percent less than listless (pun intended) shoppers. The exception could be when you can get items for pennies (or free) that are not on your list—get these anyway!
  2. Impulse “Buy-Buy” Guys: Using a list has a second benefit: researchers show that the typical consumer spends almost $100 per hour while shopping a discount department store, grocery store, or discount club. In other words, the more time you have to window-shop, the more money you’ll spend. Just think, spending thirty minutes more in a store can cost you $50! So get in and get out of there as quickly as possible and say bye-bye to impulse buys.
  3. Store Directory: Make your list according to aisle order and you’ll save even more time and money. By shopping according to aisle order, you won’t become a grocery nomad—wandering back and forth while you look for that last item on your list. Go to the customer service desk at the store you frequent and ask them for a map of the store. These are usually called an aisle order chart, store directory, or store map.
  4. Price Comping: Many stores including Wal-Mart Superstores, will match competitors’ sale prices. Check and see which stores do this in your area, not the store and sale price on your list, bring those sales circulars with you, and then ask the checker for the lowest price. This tip takes only minutes and saved our family over #3,500 last year because it can also apply to anything in the store (electronics, household goods, etc.). It also saves time and gas.
  5. Tune Out and Cash In: Watch fewer television commercials. A recent consumer report indicated that couch potatoes are far more likely to overspend at the store for each one minute commercial the watch die to the marketing effects of this medium—to the tune of an average of $260 per hour! Keep in mind that this dollar figure includes everything from Skittles and Diet Coke to a new car or luxury item.
  6. Savings 101: Buy products when they are on sale. This may sound elementary and it is, but you’d be surprised at how many people do not take advantage of sales. They’re “too busy” to shop the sales, or when something goes on sale, the think, Well, I still have some of that at home, I don’t need it now. Get the sale ads in your weekly paper and make your list according to what is on sale. Be sure and put your list in aisle order and save the sale ads for your price comping trips.
  7. Sale Awareness: Don’t give in to “impulse buying” for sales. If the discount is only 10 percent, then think twice about giving in to the urge to buy the product simply because it’s on sale. The exception would be if the item is needed immediately—in that case, you can be grateful for the fact you’ve saved 10 percent rather than nothing!
  8. Loss Leaders: Shop the loss leaders. These are items in the sale circular that the store is selling for less than their cost in order to get the consumer into the store. If you come in to buy the $.99 chicken breasts, then chances are good you’ll go ahead and pick up another thirty items you “need” while you’re in the store.
  9. Go Online for More Savings: Online has so many opportunities to save from food to prescription drugs to clothes. Check out the chart below from http://www.wow-coupons.com/ for great guide to saving money on and offline:
Wow Coupons Grocery

 

 

FREE Grocery printable coupons site! Many many grocery printable coupons from top brands.
Hopster Hopster maximizes savings on your favorite household brands by allowing you to customize your coupons. Getting started with Hopster is easy. Print a few FREE coupons. Start a quest and complete fun activities to unlock exclusive higher-value coupons.
Coupon Bar Download our FREE CouponBar and get quick and easy access to dozens of coupons on your favorite brand name products!
FreeFlys Get FREE samples from top name brands! Cheap is good, but FREE is better!
SavingStar  FREE eCoupons – new way to shop! Select the eCoupons you like and they’ll link them to your store loyalty cards! Use your loyalty card at checkout. Your money is automatically added to your SavingStar account!
RedPlum FREE Grocery printable coupons site! Many many grocery printable coupons from top brands. More savings!
SmartSource FREE Grocery printable coupons site! More savings!
Entertainment Members love Entertainment® because it is the most convenient way to access exclusive discounts and coupons in their area. Enjoy your life more with savings on the things you love to do.
Couponizer Portable system for organizing, storing, and accessing coupons! Get FREE compact mirror w/order!
SavingsAngel Save on groceries now with help from SavingsAngel. Get “Extreme Couponing” deals without the extreme lifestyle. Each week, an army of nearly 100 angels compiles store sales, manufacturer coupons, offers, rebates and promotions. $2.50 a week membership.
Coupon Clippers Buy grocery coupons! Get exactly what you need!
Select Coupon Program Join Susan Samtur’s Select Coupon Program today to receive $25 in FREE coupons. Afterwards you can buy and sell grocery coupons!
eBay  eBay is the world’s largest online marketplace, where practically anyone can buy and sell practically anything. Buy Grocery coupons at eBay!
MySavings FREE Samples Find various FREE Samples and product samples to give consumers the opportunity to try their latest and greatest product lines.
Quality Health FREE Samples Receive FREE coupons, discounts, and special offers from leading brand name pharmaceutical and packaged goods companies. FREE Samples!
FREE CookBook 100 Diabetes-friendly FREE Recipes.
FREE Prescription-Savings DPRxCard Card FREE Prescription-savings Drug Card – for everyone– 10% to 60% savings on most medications. Over 48,000 national and regional pharmacy chain stores. Valid at pharmacies: Target, Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid, Costco, Pathmark, and many others.
Pharmacy Discount Network – FREE Prescription-Savings Sign up and receive a FREE discount drug card to save up to 75% on prescription drugs. It’s good at over 65,000 drug stores: Albertsons, CVS, Costco, Eckerd, Kmart, Duane Reade, Target, Walmart, Safeway, Walgreens, Publix, RiteAid.
YourRxCoupons.com

Sign up and receive up to 75% FREE with the pharmacy savings coupons from YourRxCoupons.
You & Your Family

Multiple printable coupons from few brands. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter & more
Colgate-Palmolive

Multiple printable coupons from Colgate-Palmolive brand.
Internet Drug Coupons.com   FREE database of 216 downloadable coupons for prescription drugs,

non-prescription drugs, and medicines for pets.

Home Solutions

Printable coupons from few brands: JET-DRY, ELECTRASOL, LYSOL, etc .
Procter & Gamble

Enjoy the latest samples and coupons from P&GbrandSAMPLER, a member benefit of P&G Everyday Solutions..
Right @ Home

SC Johnson offers great home-care products you use every day, like Windex®, Glade®, Scrubbing Bubbles®, Ziploc®, Pledge®, Raid®, etc.
Living Naturally

Organic grocery food printable coupons.
Organic Valley

Organic Valley Soy, Milk and other printable coupons.
Mambo Sprouts

Organic and Healthy grocery food printable coupons.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®

Black Friday: Fact or Fiction?

The Kay Family, Christmas on the Move, 1995

The Kay family has been waking at the crack of dawn the Friday after Thanksgiving for almost two decades in order to save as much as 50% on our Christmas purchases. But does all that hot chocolate and bleary-eyed effort really pay off? There is a lot of misinformation about this retailers’ dream day, so I’d like to set the record straight on what is fact and what is fiction regarding this special day.

  • Black Friday sales begin on Black Friday.

FICTION:  It seems that the holiday sales begin earlier and earlier each year. We are used to almost bypassing Thanksgiving as a holiday and decorations go out in stores even before Halloween is over. While some stores like, JC Penneys have issued press releases that they will “honor Thanksgiving as a family day” and not open until 6:00 AM on Friday, other stores aren’t sharing the sentiment. For example, some big sales will start on Thanksgiving day, including stores like Sears, Wal-Mart and K-Mart; you’ll find them at Bradsdeals or BlackFriday So if you need an excuse to get away from your annoying sister-in-law and walk off some of that turkey, you may want to do some shopping on Thanksgiving.

  • Getting a store credit card to get a discount will hurt your FICO score & you should never use any credit  card for purchases.

FACT: Every time you open a line of credit, or there’s an inquiry about your credit you run the risk of getting a hit on your Fair Isaac Credit Score, or FICO. So trying to receive that extra 20% off all your purchases and then closing down the account in a couple of months is usually a very bad idea. It’s especially bad if you’re going to buy a new car or a home in the next several months. Plus, if you are someone who is prone to run up your credit cards and not pay off the balance each month, then you’re in for a double whammy. Your best friend may tell you she does this all the time to get the discounts, and all she’s telling you is that she also gets hit on credit score. Give her the facts, and help a sister out!

When it comes to using a credit card, you are are often better off using credit if you know you can pay the balance at the next billing cycle. It will help you in a dispute with an online vendor and can help you earn rewards points to buy other gifts. Check out LowCards for the rewards and cash back conus you might get. Some credit cards have their own extended warranties if you buy that item (think electronics) with the card. They’ll take a one year warranty and double it. Go to Credit.com to find out the details on what your card is offering.

  • Price Matching Doesn’t Apply on Black Friday

FICTION:  Wal-Mart has offered to match competitor’s ads for years, and this year is no exception. Last year, Best Buy, Amazon, and Home Depot got in on the price comping, and this year you can expect even more including
Target.  So bring in the ads to these various stores to get the good deals (some stores will even match online offers), and save those receipts as well. Because if you have an elite credit card, including  or some offered by Citi and Visa, they will offer a price-protection feature where they will refund you the difference if you find a lower price for the item you’ve bought. For example,the  Chase Freedom card refunds up to $500 per eligible purchase and up to $3500 per calendar year and is valid 90 days after purchase.

Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year.

FACT:   According to the International Council of Shopping Centers the busiest shopping day of the year is actually the Saturday before Dec. 25. In fact, only 35% of respondents plan on shopping on BF—which is more good news for you. It won’t be as crowded as you thought!

  • They give away products for free on Black Friday

FICTION: Yeah, right. You may have been dipping into the cider a bit early if you really believe there are free door busters on Black Friday. The most you will get is some cheesy little ornament worth $2.99 given to the first 100 customers. This also means that sleeping outside the store to get something you think is free.

  • The Best prices of the year are found on Black Friday

FACT: Sorta. There is no doubt that some items will never be cheaper than on Black Friday, but other items may be part of a large retailer’s push to get those Saturday-before-Christmas shoppers and may cut their Black Friday prices. You can use a cool tool at Decide.com to help you figure out whether you should buy that item now or later. It uses data to help you decide the best time to buy a certain product.

  • Black Friday deals are worth sleeping on the curb to get

FICTION:  If you really love the great outdoors and want to sleep under the starts to get one of the 3 HDTV deals that Best Buy is offering in your city, then knock yourself out. But really, this year there are more BF deals available online and in the store as well. For example, this year Kohl’s is offering its online shoppers all early bird deals on Nov 21 and all day on Thanksgiving!  So unless you just have a whole lot of free time on your hands, I’d pass on the sleepover.

  • Be careful before you buy because you may not be able to get a full refund on some of your Black Friday purchases

FACT: Retailers sometimes tighten their return policies during the holidays.  I remember one year I got 35% less than what I paid for a camera because of restocking fees that Best Buy charged me. Not fun. Other stores may only give you an in-store refund, so you are locked into spending your refund at that store. So be sure you know the store’s refund policy before you slap down the dough.

  • There are special, “secret” deals online that are not in the circulars.

FACT:   In recent years, on Thanksgiving Day, retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart have advertised extra Black Friday deals that were not listed in their circulars. These “secret” deals are only found online or with the store’s app, so the trick is to find them early so you’ll know about them when you arrive at the store on Friday. Get the Dealnews app to find new listings.

Myth: Cyber Monday offers the same caliber deals online as Black Friday in-store sales. For those of you who’d rather fully digest your Thanksgiving meal and not stand in line starting at 3 a.m. on Black Friday, we understand. Shopping for the best deals can be exhausting, but if you wait until Cyber Monday you may be missing out on some of the highest markdowns of the holiday season.

Happy Savings!

Ellie Kay

 

Buy a New Car Cheaper Than a Used One!

 

The Dream Car That Took 30 Years to Get

My first car was a 1974 Datsun B210. I was fifteen years old and forked over the cash from a multilevel babysitting service that I launched three years earlier. My folks firmly believed that I should pay my own way and it developed a “cash only” sensibility when it came to buying cars. Of course, my baby brother, didn’t have to pay for his car, but THAT is another discussion for another day!  Fast forward a few years (ok, a LOTTA years) and I was able to buy a dream car with that same philosophy. Buying used was the smartest way for me to go—but today, buying used could cost you MORE than buying new in some cases!

 This time of the year is a great time for looking into getting a car. Dealers have the 2013 models rolling in and at the end of the month, some salesmen are eager to deal in order to try and win the “salesman of the month” with all the perks associated with that coveted title. But which models should you look for in a new vehicle instead of used?

The gap between a one–year-old car and a new one can range as much as 20%, meaning the car you paid $25,000 for last year is worth $20,000 this year. Unless you purchase a car model that closes that gap such as a Chevrolet Camaro LT, where a one year old car cost only $126 less than the average price paid for a new 2012! Plus, if you finance, you usually pay a higher interest rate for used car than a new one, so if you include these expenses, a used car can cost more overall than a new one. For example, at Edmunds.com we found a $452 payment for a used, one year old Honda Odyssey minivan versus a $445 a month payment for a new one!

  Here’s the list of cars you should consider buying new according to the Kelly Blue Book:

   Vehicle                                     Price Difference                          Percentage

                                                                    Vs. new                             difference

Chevrolet Camaro LT                         $126                                                    0.5%

Toyota 4Runner SR5                          $254                                                    0.8%

Toyota FJ Cruiser                              $244                                                    0.9%

Subaru Impreza 2.0i                            $150                                                    0.9%

Jeep Wrangler Sport                           $281                                                    0.9%

Honda Fit                                            $234                                                    1.3%

VW Gold TDI 4 door                         $438                                                    1.4%

Kia Rio LX                                         $283                                                    2.1%

Mazda2 4 door                                   $306                                                    2.2%

Chevrolet Equinox LT                        $540                                                    2.2%

If the car you want doesn’t fit in this category, and you are going to buy used, then be doubly safe by ordering a car history from Carfax, AutoCheck and the Justice Department’s new database at nmvtis.gov in order to see if the car has been in a wreck or flood. But don’t stop there, take it for a thorough inspection by an independent mechanic because it’s almost impossible, in some cases to determine if that car is one of the 12% that ends up being a “salvage” car and some of these can end up on a dealers lot. If the used car is a CPO (Certified Previously Owned), then you should be safe.

      Also, whether you are buying new or used, be sure to come to the dealership armed with a printout version of the car’s evaluation/price according to Edmunds.com and/or KBB.com.

Finally, be prepared to negotiate the price of the car in THREE separate steps:

1)    PRICE – Negotiate the price of the car without a trade. Tell them you are thinking of selling your existing car yourself, and get the rock bottom price on the car you want to purchase without the bait and switch tactic of a dealer offering you a padded price on your trade to get you to go for the deal.

2)    TRADE – Once you’re satisfied you’ve negotiated the best price WITHOUT a trade, then negotiate the value of your trade-in vehicle SEPARATE from the price of the car you want to buy.

3)    FINANCING – Check out your own financing through a credit union or other resources before you look at what the dealership has to offer. If you walk in as a “payment buyer” meaning you have to secure a certain monthly payment, then they will work with you to get that monthly payment, even if you end up paying a lot more for the car.

Let me know your tips on how you get a good deal on a vehicle, I’d love to hear from you!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®

www.elliekay.com


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